Economy of the Mongolian People's Republic

Economy of the Mongolian People's Republic

On the eve of the 1921 revolution, Mongolia had an underdeveloped, stagnant economy based on nomadic animal husbandry. Farming and industry were almost nonexistent; transportation and communications were primitive; banking, services, and trade were almost exclusively in the hands of Chinese or other foreigners. Most of the people were illiterate nomadic herders, and a large part of the male labour force lived in the monasteries, contributing little to the economy. Property in the form of livestock was owned primarily by aristocrats and monasteries; ownership of the remaining sectors of the economy was dominated by Chinese or other foreigners. Mongolia's new rulers thus were faced with a daunting task in building a modern, socialist economy.


1921 - 1939

Mongolia's economic development under communist control can be divided into three periods: 1921-1939; 1940-1960; and 1961 to the present. During the first period, which the Mongolian government called the stage of "general democratic transformation," the economy remained primarily agrarian and underdeveloped. After an abortive attempt to collectivize herders, livestock remained in private hands. The state began to develop industry based on processing of animal husbandry products and crop raising on state farms. Transportation, communications, domestic and foreign trade, and banking and finance were nationalized with Soviet assistance; they were placed under the control of Mongolian state and cooperative organizations or Mongolian-Soviet joint-stock companies. Ulan Bator became the nation's industrial center.

1940 - 1960

During the second period, called the "construction of the foundations of socialism," agriculture was collectivized, and industry was diversified into mining, timber processing, and consumer goods production. Central planning of the economy began in 1931 with an abortive five-year plan and with annual plans in 1941; five-year plans began a new with the First Five-Year Plan (1948-52). Soviet, and after 1949 Chinese, aid increased, allowing the construction of the Trans-Mongolian Railway --the Ulaanbaatar Railroad--, and various industrial projects. Although industrial development still was concentrated in Ulaanbaatar, economic decentralization began with the completion of the Ulaanbaatar Railroad and the establishment of food processing plants in aimag centers.

1960 - 1992

The third stage, which the government called the "completion of the construction of the material and technical basis of socialism," saw further industrialization and agricultural growth, aided largely by Mongolia's joining the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) in 1962. After the Sino-Soviet split, Chinese aid ceased, but continued Soviet and East European financial and technical assistance in the forms of credits, advisers, and joint ventures enabled Mongolia to modernize and to diversify industry, particularly in mining. New industrial centers were built in Baganuur, Choibalsan, Darkhan, and Erdenet, and industrial output rose significantly. Although animal husbandry was stagnant, crop production increased dramatically with the development of virgin lands by state farms. Foreign trade with Comecon nations grew substantially. Transportation and communications systems were improved, linking population and industrial centers and extending to more remote rural areas. In the late 1980s, Mongolia had developed into an agricultural-industrial economy, but the inefficiencies of a centrally planned and managed economy and the example of perestroika in the Soviet Union led Mongolian leaders to undertake a reform program to develop the economy further.

Role of the government

In the late 1980s, Mongolia had a planned economy based on socialist ownership of the means of production. According to the Constitution of the Mongolian People's Republic, socialist ownership has two forms: state ownership (of land and natural resources, economic facilities and infrastructure; and the property of all state organizations, enterprises, and institutions) and cooperative ownership (property of agricultural associations and other types of cooperatives). Private ownership was negligible in all sectors of the economy, except animal husbandry, but economic reforms adopted since 1986 gave greater leeway for individual and cooperative enterprises. The economy was directed by a single state national economic plan, which, when confirmed by the legislature, the State Great Khural, had the force of law. In accordance with the plan, the state annually drew up a state budget, which was confirmed and published in the form of a law. The Council of Ministers constitutionally was charged with planning the national economy; implementing the national economic plan and the state and local budgets; directing financial and credit policy; exercising a foreign trade monopoly; establishing and directing the activities of ministries and other state institutions concerned with economic construction; defending socialist production; and strengthening socialist ownership.

In December 1987 and January 1988, the top-level state economic organizations under the Council of Ministers were reorganized. The State Planning and Economic Committee was formed out of the former State Planning Commission, the State Labor and Social Welfare Committee, the State Prices and Standards Committee, and the Central Statistical Board. New economic entities were the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry; the Ministry of Environmental Protection; the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Supply; the Ministry of Light Industry; and the Ministry of Power, Mining Industry, and Geology. Unaffected by the reorganization were the Ministry of Social Economy and Services, the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Transport, the State Construction Committee, and the State Bank of the Mongolian People's Republic. Local government organizations--the executive committees of hurals--implemented economic plans and budgets, directed economic construction, and supervised the work of economic and cooperative organizations at their level.


Planning in communist-run Mongolia had an inauspicious start with the Five-Year Plan for 1931-35, which set unrealistically high targets for production and called for the collectivization of agricultural production. This plan was abandoned in 1932 in the face of widespread resistance to collectivization and the failure to meet production goals. Annual planning was introduced in 1941 in an effort to deal with wartime shortages. Five-year plans were reintroduced in 1948 with the First Plan. The Second Five-Year Plan (1953-57) was followed by the Three-Year Plan (1958-60). Regular five-year plans were resumed with the Third Five-Year Plan (1961-65), and they continued to be used afterward.

In the late 1980s, economic planning in Mongolia included long-term, five-year, and annual plans that operated on multiple levels. Planning originated with the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, which produced the guidelines for economic and social development for the five-year period corresponding to the party's congress. Based on these guidelines, the Standing Commission on Economic-Budget Affairs of the People's Great Hural drafted the five-year national and annual economic plans, which were approved by the People's Great Hural and became law. The Council of Ministers directed and implemented national planning through the State Planning and Economic Committee and through the Ministry of Finance. Planning for different sectors of the economy was conducted by relevant ministries and state committees; local plans were drawn up by local governmental organizations.

Mongolia's five-year plans were coordinated with those of the Soviet Union beginning in 1961 and with Comecon multilateral five-year plans beginning in 1976. Annual plan coordination with the Soviet Union, which was made official in signed protocols, began in 1971. Mongolian planners were trained by Soviet planners and cooperated with them in drafting long-term plans, such as the General Scheme for the Development and Location of the Mongolian People's Republic Productive Forces up to 1990, produced in the late 1970s; and the Longterm Program for the Development of Economic, Scientific, and Technical Cooperation Between the Mongolian People' Republic and the USSR for the Period up to 2000, signed in 1985.

National economic plans included general development goals as well as specific targets and quotas for agriculture, capital construction and investment, domestic and foreign trade, industry, labor resources and wages, retail sales and services, telecommunications, and transportation. The plans also focused on such social development goals and targets as improved living standards, population increase, cultural development, and scientific and technical development.


The Ministry of Finance prepared annual national budgets and provided guidance to the formulation of local budgets. The national budget included the budget of the central government, the budgets of aimag and city governments, and the budget of the national social insurance fund. The national budget grew with the expansion of the economy: In 1940 revenues were 123.9 million Tögrög and expenditures, 122.1 million tugriks; in 1985 revenues were 5,743 million tugriks and expenditures, 5,692.5 million tugriks.

The structure of the national budget changed between 1940 and 1985.In 1940 some 34.6 percent of revenues came from the turnover tax (a value added tax on each transaction), 7.8 percent from deductions from profits, 16.7 percent from taxes on the population, and 40.9 percent from other kinds of income.In 1985 nearly 63 percent of revenues came from the turnover tax, 29.9 percent from deductions from profits, 3.5 percent from deductions from the social insurance fund, 0.7 percent from taxes on the population, and 3.2 percent from other types of income.In 1940 some 21.9 percent of expenditures went to develop the national economy; 19.7 percent to social and cultural programs; and 58.4 percent to defense, state administration, reserves, and other expenses.In 1985 about 42.6 percent of expenditures went to developing the national economy; 38.7 percent to social and cultural programs; and 18.7 percent to defense, state administration, reserves, and other expenses.

The proposed 1989 budget had revenues and expenditures of 6.97 billion tugriks. Proposed expenditures for 1989 included 1.8 billion tugriks for developing agriculture, 2.1 billion for industry, and 1.6 billion for capital investment. Of the 2.76 billion tugriks proposed for social and cultural development, 1.16 billion was to go for education; 597.5 million for health, physical culture, and sports; 259.7 million for science, culture, and art; and 747.4 million for the social insurance fund. Subsidies to maintain stable retail prices totaled 213 million tugriks. Local budgets, through which 70 percent of social and cultural expenditures were funneled, totaled 3.46 billion tugriks.

tructure of the Economy

Socialist development transformed Mongolia from a predominantly agrarian, nomadic economy in 1921 into a developing, agricultural-industrial economy in the late 1980s. In 1985 a reported 18.3 percent of produced national income was derived from agriculture, 32.4 percent from industry, 4.9 percent from construction, 11.2 percent from transportation and communications, 31.6 percent from domestic trade and services, and 1.6 percent from other sectors. Sixty percent of disposable national income went to consumption, and 40 percent went to accumulation. Fixed assets totaled about 38.9 billion tugriks, of which 66.5 percent were productive fixed assets, including livestock, and 33.5 percent were nonproductive. Industry and construction accounted for 38.1 percent of the productive fixed assets; agriculture, 16 percent; transportation and communications, 9 percent; and domestic trade and services, 3.4 percent. Investment totaled 4.624 billion tugriks, 97.9 percent of which went to the state sector, and 2.1 percent, to the cooperative sector. During the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1981-85), 68.9 percent of investments went into the productive sectors of the economy, and 31.1 percent, into nonproductive sectors. Industry and construction received 44.7 percent of investment during this period; agriculture, 13.9 percent; transportation and communications, 9.0 percent; and domestic trade and services, 1.3 percent. The Eighth Five-Year Plan (1986-90) called for increasing produced national income by 26 to 29 percent and for raising investment by 24 to 26 percent, of which 70 percent was to go to developing material production.

In the late 1980s, Mongolia was divided into three economic regions. The western region (Bayan-Ölgii, Khovd, Uvs, Zavkhan, and Govi-Altai aimags), with 21 percent of the nation's population, was predominantly agricultural. The western region had 32 percent of Mongolia's livestock and produced about 30 percent of its wool and meat. Local industry was engaged in processing of animal husbandry products, timber, minerals, and building materials. Transportation was predominantly by motor vehicles.

The central economic region (Arkhangai, Bayankhongor, Bulgan, Darkhan-Uul, Dornogovi, Dundgovi, Khövsgöl, Ömnögovi, Övörkhangai, Selenge, Töv aimags, and Ulan Bator) was the dominant producer. The region had 70 percent of Mongolia's population (including the cities of Darkhan, Erdenet, and Ulan Bator); 55 percent of its territory; 75 percent of its arable land; 90 percent of surveyed coal deposits; and 100 percent of copper, molybdenum, iron ore, and phosphate deposits. This region accounted for 80 percent of gross industrial production, 90 percent of light industrial production, and 80 percent of food industry production, 75 percent of coal production, and 100 percent of copper-molybdenum, iron ore, and phosphate mining. It also accounted for 60 percent of gross agricultural production, 60 percent of milk production, 50 percent of meat production, and 80 percent of grain, potato, and vegetable production.

Economic Reforms

In the late 1980s, dissatisfaction with the economic stagnation of the last years of the former regime of Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal and the influence of the Soviet perestroika led Mongolia to launch its own program of economic reforms. This program had five goals: acceleration of development; application of science and technology to production; reform of management and planning; greater independence of enterprises; and a balance of individual, collective, and societal interests. Acceleration of development in general was to result from the attainment of the other four goals. Scientific research was being redirected to better serve economic development, with electronics, automation, biotechnology, and the creation of materials becoming the priority areas of research and cooperation with Comecon countries.

Reform of management and planning began in 1986 with the first of several rounds of reorganization of governmental bodies dealing with the economy. These changes rationalized and streamlined state economic organizations; reduced the number of administrative positions by 3,000; and saved 20 million tugriks between 1986 and 1988. The role of the central planning bodies was to be reduced by limiting the duties of the State Planning and Economic Committee to overseeing general capital-investment policy. The indicators specified in the five-year and the annual national economic plans also were to be decreased. State committees and ministries, rather than the State Planning and Economic Committee, were to decide upon machinery and equipment purchases. Decentralization of economic management also was to extend to aimag and city administrations and enterprises. These bodies were given greater autonomy in construction and production, and they also were held financially responsible for profits and losses.

Efforts to devolve economic decision making to the enterprise level began in 1986, when more than 100 enterprises began experimenting with financial autonomy (before then, enterprises operating with a deficit had been subsidized by the state). Enterprises were accountable for their own losses, and they were responsible for fulfilling sales contracts and export orders. The draft law on state enterprises, presented to the People's Great Hural in December 1988, was to extend greater independence in economic matters to all state enterprises and to lead to an economy that combined planning and market mechanisms.

Under provisions of the draft law, state enterprises were to be authorized to make their own annual and five-year plans and to negotiate with state and local authorities to pay taxes based on long-term quotas. State enterprises also were to sell output exceeding state orders and unused assets; to establish their own, or to cooperate with existing, scientific organizations to solve scientific and technical problems; to be financially responsible for losses, and to pay back bank loans; to set prices independently; to establish wage rates based on enterprise profitability; to purchase materials and goods from individuals, collectives, state distribution organizations, and wholesale trade enterprises; to establish direct ties with foreign economic organizations; to manage their own foreign currency; and to conduct foreign trade.

The draft law stipulated that enterprises were to be divided into two categories. National enterprises were to be the responsibility of ministries, state committees, and departments; local enterprises were to be supervised by executive committees of aimag and city administrations or members of local hurals. State and local bodies were not to interfere in the day-to-day decision making of enterprises, but they were responsible for ensuring that enterprises obeyed the law and that they did not suppress the interests of society. Enterprises were allowed to form three kinds of associations: production associations, scientific production associations, and enterprise associations to coordinate economic affairs. Finally, the draft law said that the state was the owner of state enterprises and that the labor collective was the lawful manager of a state enterprise. The labor collective was to elect a labor collective council, which was to ensure that the enterprise director (who acted on behalf of the collective and the state) met the interests of the collective in managing the enterprise. It was unclear how the relationship between the enterprise director and the labor collective would work out in practice.

Balancing the interests of society, the collective, and the individual entailed providing scope for individual and collective initiative to increase production and efficiency. Enlarging the scope for individual initiative had three aspects: linking wages to enterprise profitability, permitting output exceeding state plans to be sold for profit, and providing employment opportunities outside the state and the cooperative sectors. In 1988 wage scales dependent on enterprise revenues were introduced to the light and food industries and to the domestic trade sector, resulting in a reduction in materials utilized by those sectors. Beginning in late 1986, state farms and "negdels" (agricultural stations) were eligible for state payments for output exceeding the annual average growth rate for the previous five-year plan. Individual agricultural cooperative members and workers were allowed increasing numbers of privately held livestock. The draft law also stipulated that enterprises could sell production exceeding plan targets for their own profit. In 1987 the government began encouraging the formation of voluntary labor associations, auxiliary farms, and sideline production attached to enterprises, schools, and so forth to increase production of foodstuffs and consumer goods, to engage in primary processing of agricultural goods, and to provide services. The authorities permitted the formation of individual and family-based cooperatives; by 1988 there were 480 such cooperatives. Contracting among state farms and both agricultural cooperatives and families was permitted and was increasing in the late 1980s. The eastern economic region (Dornod, Khentii, and Sükhbaatar aimags) had 9 percent of Mongolia's population, 20 percent of the arable land, and 15 percent of the livestock. The region contributed 15 percent of gross meat production and 13 percent of wool production. Grain production on large state farms hewed out of virgin lands contributed 90 percent of the region's agricultural output. The major industrial center was Choibalsan, which produced 50 percent of regional gross industrial output.


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